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For How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System

Heroin roughly accounts for 18% of the admissions for drug and alcohol treatment in the US. The number of people using heroin for the first time remains high, with 170,000 people starting heroin use in 2016, nearly double the number of people in 2006. Still, when you try to get the heroin out of your system alone, it can be a dangerous practice. 

When someone quits heroin cold turkey, they’re likely to experience intense cravings for the drugs. Or, they might go back to using to taper off these uncomfortable symptoms. Therefore, they’re likely to relapse. Unfortunately, as their body has already entered detox, they’re likely to suffer an overdose. Most users don’t believe their tolerance for the drug will diminish quickly, but the body is an intricate machine. 

So, when it comes to getting heroin out of your system, the best way to do it is with the right support. 

What is Heroin?

Heroin is an addictive painkiller synthesized from morphine, which comes from poppy plant seeds. Because these seeds make opium, heroin and morphine are both opiates. The side effects of heroin are similar to painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, only more potent. Heroin binds to the brain’s opioid receptors. It produces an intense euphoric “high” that users crave and eventually rewires the brain’s reward system, which is one of the reasons people become addicts.

Heroin is available as a white or brown powder or can also be available in black powder, also known as black tar heroin. Heroin has many street names that people use to identify the drug, including:

  • Big H
  • Horse
  • Hell Dust
  • Smack
  • Black Tar
  • Chiva
  • Negra
  • Thunder

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

Heroin is an illegal opioid that’s typically smoked, snorted, or injected directly into the veins. However, how long does heroin stay in your system truly depends on the administration method. It has a particularly short half-life of only 30 minutes. People are more likely to use larger quantities of heroin when compared to other drugs because of this particularity. Or, they might continue using other drugs like cocaine and meth to extend the high.  

Different tests can detect heroin in a person’s system at different timelines. For example, a hair follicle test can yield a positive result for heroin, even 90 days after the last use.

Blood Tests

The most common drug test for heroin is blood tests. It can take less than 5 hours for heroin to be detectable in bodily fluids. But heroin will only be detected in blood tests for up to six hours. 

Urine Tests

Another standard drug test, heroin, can stay in urine three days after the last use. Of course, this will significantly depend on someone’s metabolic rate and other factors.

Saliva Tests

Although saliva tests are used to look for heroin, they aren’t the most reliable. This is mostly because heroin is shown in saliva tests 24 hours after the last dose, making them not so reliable options. 

Hair Tests

Interestingly enough, the best drug screening for heroin is a hair test. Traces of heroin can appear in hair follicles up to 90 days after the last use, sometimes even longer. 

Factors That Affect How Long Heroin Stays in the Body

Still, the actual time it takes for an individual to get the heroin out of their system varies tremendously. This depends on several factors that include height and weight, age, genetics, dosage, liver health, and even hydration levels. 


The duration of heroin withdrawal depends on various factors. From the amount of time the user abused heroin and the amount of heroin, they took each time to the method by which they took heroin and the presence of co-occurring mental illness.

Overall, it takes anywhere between 1 to 7 days to experience the entire spectrum of heroin withdrawal symptoms. This, of course, happens without the presence of post-acute withdrawal symptoms. 

Body Composition & Sex

Drug metabolites are usually stored in the fat cells in the body. This means, the higher your body fat or BMI, the slower you metabolize and excrete heroin. For example, women often metabolize opioids slower than men because they tend to have higher body fat levels.

Overall Health

If your body isn’t at its optimal level, it might take longer to metabolize opioids like heroin. Your metabolism also plays a role. Usually, those with substance abuse problems have impaired digestive enzymes that can affect metabolism. Age, gender, weight, and overall physical activity can also have an impact. Overall, older people tend to clear drugs slower than younger people, for example. 

How to Get Heroin Out of Your System

The problem with getting heroin out of your system is that it produces negative withdrawal symptoms. While they’re not life-threatening, they can be highly uncomfortable, which increases the risk of relapse. Quitting heroin cold-turkey also raises your chances of struggling with post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Through Detox

Heroin detox can be a challenging process. While there are many treatment options, inpatient detox might be the safest plan. With inpatient treatment, patients need to stay at a detox facility where there is proper medical supervision and care.

Additionally, with this type of care, users receive a more in-depth and medical approach to rehab, including doctor and nurse oversight. Inpatient treatment can help patients looking for ways to ease withdrawal symptoms through medication assistance and more.

A medical detox program may also incorporate medication-assisted treatment, such as naloxone, to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and help people be better prepared for rehab.

Choosing a medical detox approach also positions patients in the best possible scenario to continue treatment. Most detox facilities offer inpatient rehab programs to continue addiction treatment under clinical supervision. For those with co-occurring mental health conditions, an inpatient rehab program also provides them with the mental health assistance they need to prevent another depressive episode and continue treatment. 

Through Rehab

Speaking with an addiction treatment specialist as soon as possible is the best way to start seeking help for addiction. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our drug addiction recovery programs include:

  • Inpatient Programs: These offer a temptation-free environment to help people in recovery. In this case, people check into a living drug rehab facility, and they attend meetings and therapy sessions while remaining in a supervised environment. 
  • Outpatient Programs: For those with mild heroin addiction, an outpatient rehab program might be an option. In this case, they have a more flexible program that allows them to maintain their daily schedule and responsibilities like attending school, work, or caring for their family. 
  • Medication-Assisted Programs: While rare, long-term heroin addicts might experience the worse withdrawal symptoms. To prevent these symptoms from harming them physically and psychologically, a physician might recommend specific prescription medications to help through the withdrawal process under a medically supervised program. MAT programs are also helpful for those struggling with mental health conditions that could make the withdrawal process even worse.
  • Individual Therapy: Beyond the detox process, it’s paramount to tackle the addiction. Through individual therapy, people can understand what drives addictive behavior and see if there’s an underlying cause of their addiction. 
  • Group Therapy: Building a healthy and sober support team is a critical element of addiction recovery. By attending group meetings or 12-step programs, individuals can continue their sober life and continue to learn relapse prevention techniques, even months after detox. 
  • Aftercare Programs: Addiction isn’t one thing people can shove under the rug. The remnants of addiction often stay with them for the rest of their life. To help users find happiness and purpose in their lives, aftercare programs offer relapse prevention classes, life skills, and other essential tools for a successful life after treatment. 

Getting Help for Heroin Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with drug abuse, seek help immediately. Contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs. Our addiction treatment center is ready to welcome you with open arms.

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